01 December 2013

...Demo Lessons

I have written this post with pre-service trainee teachers in mind... Naturally, a key consideration for you during your training is likely to be one of securing a job (and a salary) by the end of it. However, as one might expect, many head teachers are reluctant to recruit new staff without first seeing them teach.

And rightly so. Recruitment itself takes time and money. And the stakes are high for school leaders for whom the quality of teaching is usually a prime concern.

Also, teaching is a complex, dynamic profession. It requires intelligent, flexible, responsive individuals to make effective use of a range of strategies for ensuring that the pupils in their classes make progress. By observing you teach a lesson, and witnessing your practical abilities, a potential employer is in a much stronger position to confidently make you a job offer.

So, if you are in training you are likely to be asked to teach a lesson, or part of a lesson, as part of an interview process or for acceptance into a council or local authority's NQT pool. The key points described below can be used to help you to prepare, and ensure that your demo lesson progresses well:
  • Planning:
    • Pin down your learning intention. Remember that the intended learning (the planned learning objective, learning intention or WALT - 'we are learning to/today') should not describe the task that children will complete. For example, "to write a poem" is an activity, not a learning objective.
    • Keep your plan simple, and focused on the intended learning.
    • Plan for an additional adult, if it is at all likely that you'll have someone you'll be able to deploy.
    • Provide a copy of your plan for the observer/s.
  • Vocabulary:
    • Plan to allow pupils to articulate what it is they are learning.
    • Specifically introduce and explain key vocabulary. Give children the opportunity to use it in partner talk before you expect them to apply it independently.
    •  Limiting your language to key planned vocabulary may help to ensure a clear learning journey for pupils.
  • Tasks/activities:
    • Avoid lengthy writing activities (unless you're instructed otherwise). Ensure that any writing is well supported and that you display key vocabulary.
    • Supporting any instruction or activity with images, photographs, signs or symbols, or real objects, is likely to aid pace and progress, and impress an observer.
  • Pace:
    • Remember that good pace doesn't necessarily equal fast pace. For example, give children time to digest questions, develop their ideas, and formulate appropriate answers. 
  • Resources:
    • Ensure that books or poems shared with pupils are age appropriate. Some picture books (e.g. those by Oliver Jeffers, Shaun Tan or Anthony Browne) have a richness and depth that make them appropriate for wide age ranges.
    • Have a contingency for failing technology. Have a good balance between virtual and physical resources.
  • Assessment:
    • Consider the ways you will assess pupil progress, during and at the end of the lesson.
    • Be prepared to make judgements about the success of your lesson, based on the progress that the pupils have made.
While not an exhaustive list, making sure that you have considered the above points will help things go smoothly in the heat of the moment. I hope you find this advice useful. I would warmly welcome constructive feedback, including the extent to which you found this post helpful.

A final thought. Remember that the unpredictable nature of the classroom environment is such that even the best-planned lessons may not always go as well as you'd like them to. Commit to learning from the experience, however good or bad your lesson is judged to be: A judgement on the quality of your lesson is a professional one, not a personal one!

Best of luck!


Further Reading

Beere, J. (2012) The Perfect (Ofsted) Lesson: Revised and Updated. Crown House Publishing

Thanks to Julie Gariazzo & Alison Baker for contributing.

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Regards, DJA